The road to the White House probably won't begin on an escalator in a fancy building with the candidate's name on it. It's more likely to carry an exclamation point than bold letters, though the candidate with his own plane might be more apt to generate headlines -- if not start a war with Mexico. It took something uttered by that same candidate to draw a response from the candidate who Democrats are most likely to hire.
With a sad and repugnant act slowing trail activity, here's a glimpse at some of the stories the ABC News political team is tracking the week ahead:
Charleston's ChillThe all-too-familiar experience of an American mass shooting has slowed the campaign pace with candidates canceling events and holding back on stump-speech barbs out of respect for victims and mourners. The Twitter-verse is on guard for off-note commentary from any of the presidential contenders on issues of race and gun violence.
It's only a matter of time before the national gun control debate dials back to its predictable decibels -- as well as its almost-as-predictable outcome. President Obama said it would be "wrong" not to talk about guns in the wake of the massacre, a sentiment echoed by Hillary Clinton and Martin O'Malley. Bobby Jindal led Republican push back, though, accusing the president of using tragedy to score political points.
Pontifical PoliticsPope Francis' decision to jump into the debate over climate change is already roiling a Republican race that could wind up including five Catholic candidates. Several of those candidates -- including Jeb Bush and Rick Santorum -- served notice that they weren't ready to have a religious leader dictate policy stances. "I don't get economic policy from my bishops or my cardinal or my pope," Bush said.
But the stark and clear words from the encyclical on climate change could carry particular resonance coming from this pope, particularly on the eve of his visit to the United States. Another Catholic candidate, George Pataki, called it "absurd" of his Republican rivals to suggest that the pope "lacks standing" to weigh in on climate change, and is promising a plan of his own that would challenge the other candidates.
Bobby's BounceLouisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal will make it a baker's dozen of Republican candidates if and when he announces for president as expected Wednesday in New Orleans. Jindal is poised to kick off the gubernatorial phase of the announcement season with a total of four sitting GOP governors expected to get in the race over the next month. He's probably the longest shot in a governors' bracket that could include Scott Walker, Chris Christie and John Kasich.
Polls suggest Jindal isn't likely to earn an invite to the first Republican debate in August, which will feature the top 10 candidates in national polls. He has been considered a rising star long enough to have seen his star fade. He's hoping his faith and wonky policy expertise deliver him a breakthrough opportunity, but he'll need one soon.
Bern Baby BernCould it be the moment liberals have been waiting for -- and the moment Hillary Clinton's campaign has been dreading? Overflow crowds and some -- for the moment -- outlier polls are contributing to a sense that Sen. Bernie Sanders' candidacy is gaining steam. He's being helped by an issue set that plays into progressives' concerns about both Clinton and President Obama, most notably the trade deals that Clinton has sought to avoid taking a firm position on. But with the attention comes scrutiny, and Sanders' position on foreign policy and gun control -- he opposed the Brady Bill -- are prime for additional attention next.
Supreme SuspenseThe third branch of government's end-of-session cram is being eagerly anticipated on the campaign trail and beyond. The possibility of the Supreme Court legalizing gay marriage nationwide would pressure Republicans to respond. Already, some are calling for a constitutional amendment rolling back same-sex marriage and others are calling for outright defiance and ignoring the court.
The challenge to Obamacare might carry even more complicated implications for candidates as well as President Obama and Republicans in Congress. Governors could be put on the spot as millions of their citizens lose health care subsidies. A Republican "win" at the high court could have unintended consequences. GOP lawmakers could be pressured to produce solutions or be blamed for widespread loss of health coverage and Democrats might be galvanized for grassroots action.